Midnight Juggernauts – Uncanny Valley
Science and technology revolutionise our lives but memory, tradition and myth frame our response. – Arthur M. Schiesinger.
Wow. Intense! That quote appears at the end of the Midnight Juggernauts latest filmclip for the single ‘Memorium’.
Add to this the press release album description of “…psychedelic Soviet-sci-fi pop” “steeped in the darkness of dusty Giallo soundtracks, audio spomeniks at once futuristic and rustic, a bold musical future envisaged through a soundtrack to a forgotten Eastern Bloc Tarkovsky film” and I was extremely concerned. What a symphony of references I had never even heard of! I wondered if the Midnight Juggernauts had been entrenched in album making land so long that a cloud of pretentious, delusional, self-importance had descended.
Not long into the first listen to “Uncanny Valley” it was clear that the band used the sci-fi influence to add comical value to the record through interesting samples, rather then believing they were some scientific prodigies delivering a message. What a relief!
Celestial, sci-fi electronic sounds define this album and if you look up its title, “Uncanny Valley” (which refers to robots with frighteningly human characteristics) you can understand that that was the band’s the intention.
Album number three for Midnight Juggernauts is filled with experimental, chill-wave beats with layered warp techno samples and catchy hooks. There’s a real sense of escapism here; a detachment from reality without indulgence and a confidence that gives the tracks ease.
The LP begins beautifully with haunting synth layered under a driving pulse and soothing male vocals in HCL. The intersteller ride continues with the first single, “Ballad of the War Machine”, which is reminiscent of the MGMT glory days and is sure to be a dancefloor hit.
“Uncanny Valley” is heavy on the ‘spooky’ elements, especially on the 2nd single from the album Memorium. I found this quite amusing as it reminded me of The Trap Door cartoon that I watched as a child. It probably had something to do with the diminished chords on the haunted-house organ synth, the vocals that come in ghostly whispers and howls and lyrics talking about “digging up their bones”. None of this detracted from the music though – it’s a wonderful offering of fresh, interesting electronic pop.
The mid-album Bowiesque “Master of Gold” added a psych-rock vibe to the mix and excited me with the genre-evolving direction that things were taking. Unfortunately it didn’t go anywhere. It’s not the last couple of tracks are unsuccessful, but rather that the first three-quarters of the album is so diverse and captivating that, just as in an enthralling film, I was craving a denouement.
Midnight Juggernauts’ third album was three years in the making which allowed the Melbourne trio to work on some side-projects and to mature their art form into a more atmospheric, and experimental experience. It pushes into new territory, while retaining subtle familiarity and the melodic synth from at least a couple of the tracks will subliminally seep into your psyche.
It’s easy to get lost in the ten tracks that make up “Uncanny Valley.” Let the hypnotic, futuristic beats of this perfect driving music take you far away.
Review by Harriet Cheney.